Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

This is a blog post wherein I demonstrate that I know nothing about graphic novels.

Keep reading, and I'm quite sure you'll figure that out for yourself.  This review is, in part, about the Locke & Key series, and, in other part, about how a book-nerd first encounters the comic book world.

First, let's review a few established facts:

  1. I'm an incessant reader.  And a darn good one at that.
  2. I read a little bit of everything, but I've never read comic books or graphic novels.
  3. I'm a self-proclaimed nerd.
  4. The Family Addiction is reviewing "scary" books for October.

When you put those first three facts together, as I did awhile ago, it raises an interesting question.

Q.     What self-respecting nerd ignores an entire genre of books?
A.     Not this one.
I'm not a fan of being uninformed.

So I cozied up to my Amazon Prime account and ordered two that were well-reviewed.  (Fun Home: A Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel we'll save for another day.)  Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez was the first one I read.  I've been ruminating on the experience and how to review it for months.  It just so happens that the Locke & Key story is freaky as all get-out, so it's a good story to review for TFA's October scare-athon.  In the opening of Welcome to Lovecraft, two teens and their kid brother are reeling from the violent death of their father.  With their mother, they move across the country to live in the house where their father grew up.  Normally, an opening involving two deranged and homicidal killers would be the part where things get weird, but it actually reads like the most straightforward piece.  Once the family arrives in Lovecraft, reality goes off its rails.  One of the killers manages to break out and hitchhikes across the country.  The kid brother discovers a door that actually allows your spirit to leave your body.  There might be someone trapped in the wellhouse.  Oh, and mom copes with her grief by self-medicating.  As the story unfolds, the tension and sense of danger crank up until, at the end, the characters get a moment's peace. Not a happily ever after, just a pause in the drama as the first volume ends.

How do I review a story the likes of which I've never read? I don't know how to be fair and thorough about this without some backtracking.

First, see Fact 1.  I read a LOT.  All that reading works for me because I have a vivid imagination.  Someone else puts words down on a page, and my brain neatly fits the words together like a puzzle to give me mental image of the scene I'm reading.  One of the reasons I find reading so engrossing is because piecing together the mental image is an involving process.  I'm one of those readers who doesn't hear you call my name when I'm deep in a story.

Second, I'm an inpatient reader. No author publishes fast enough to my way of thinking.  I pointed out to a few of you that Ilona Andrews is self-publishing a free serial at:  (If you haven't read it yet, DO IT.  Go THERE.)  I love it. And I hate it.  I want the full story RIGHT NOW.  I'm jonesing for the next installation, and I'm not amused by that.

Scary story.
So, how does a reader who happily creates her own mental images of stories and who unhappily waits for new books and new parts of serials respond to her first graphic novel--a story complete with detailed pictures and meant to be shared piece by piece?  Initially? Not well.  But upon further review (and after finishing the second volume of the series), I think I can do this.  In fact, I NEED to do this because the Locke & Key storyline has totally sucked me in.

But initially, I struggled.  I liked was intrigued by the story.  ("Like" is a pretty soft and squishy word for a storyline as dark and fantastical as Welcome to Lovecraft.  Let's go with intrigued instead.)  But I felt a little lost.  I didn't need to create my own mental image. Gabriel Rodriguez had done an absolutely stunning job creating the images for the reader.  I really wasn't sure how to "read" the story. Sure, I can read the words.  It's English. I've got that covered.  But do I read the words & then dive into the picture.  Do I try to do both at once?  Where does my eye start? Where does it go next?  I'm 40 years old, and I felt like I was learning to read all over again.

So there was confusion, and more than a little bit of disconnect.  I didn't feel as involved because I didn't need to create those mental images, and because the story was the first of five volumes, you only get the introduction.  (An introduction with a LOT of action, but an introduction nonetheless.)  I finished the story, and I wasn't sure what to think.

Intrigue? Yay! Disconnect? Boo.

My social scientist nerdiness kicked in, though, and I knew I couldn't judge an entire genre or even an entire series with an n of one. So I picked up the second volume, Locke & Ke: Head Games, in order to give the experience another try.

And now I'm hooked.  Not on graphic novels in general.  The jury is still out on that one.  (An n of two isn't really any better than an n of one.). But I am completely hooked on the Locke & Key storyline.  I'm quite annoyed that someone else has checked out the third volume from the Decatur Public Library.  I need it RIGHT NOW.

So here's my advice.  If you like graphic novels and horror stories, read Locke & Key.  If you like horror stories and want to give graphic novels a spin, read Locke & Key, but be sure to give yourself a chance to adapt to the new format.

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